Remaking theatre behind closed doors

An online theatre festival to promote short plays in response to unprecedented times

Elizabeth Moynihan, left, and Laoisa Sexton, writer and star of An Unmade Bed

Elizabeth Moynihan, left, and Laoisa Sexton, writer and star of An Unmade Bed

 

“Who leaves their girlfriend in the middle of a pandemic?”

I began writing the day of 9/11 while on tour as an actor. My latest work is a response to another seismic event on a global scale, a short play entitled An Unmade Bed, commissioned by the New Theatre and Take Your Seats for the Fight Back Festival.

Dolly was a singer. Now she doesn’t go out. Hasn’t for months. She lives with her boyfriend Duo, a DJ of little talent with a taste for Class A drugs, and it is getting dark.

A pandemic forces them to stay together. Duo risks leaving, as his addiction overwhelms him and the need to score is bigger than his need to survive. Dolly’s world is gradually reduced to counting umbrellas through a window at the top of her stairs.

Fight Back Festival is the first ‘new media’ festival of short plays with a shared theme, Covid-19, debuting 12 new plays. An Unmade Bed opened the festival on the New Theatre’s Facebook page, reaching 1,000 views that night and building.

It seems odd to thank a pandemic for anything but Covid-19 has given rise to this whole new platform for playwrights, with audience numbers that a 66-seater venue like The New Theatre could previously not have accommodated. The audience capacity, using the new platform, is limitless and seat numbers are irrelevant. The walls of a theatre are now just a concept as we look to rescue a struggling art form from the ashes of commercialism and fight back with a new, affordable way to experience theatre and work that previously was a risk, given the absence of celebrity names attached.

My other play, The Rising Tide, was due to open in London to mark my debut as a playwright in the UK and the first of my plays in which I was to perform. Covid-19 led to that show being cancelled until theatre doors open in London again. It was strange to find myself gearing up for another opening in Dublin this month instead. Different city… Different medium.

I trained in all areas of theatre making under Deirdre O’Connell at the Focus Theatre. After her death I moved to London as the creative hole she left was impossible to plaster over. I now split my time between there and Dublin where I work as an actor and writer.

For 23 years, The New Theatre has nurtured, developed and staged new plays and provided Irish writers and artists with dramaturgical and production support. With COVID-19 closing all theatres across Ireland, emerging writers and actors have lost opportunities to have their work seen by audiences. More pressingly, they have lost their income. Fight Back Festival 2020 is an initiative of TakeYourSeats.ie and The New Theatre – 12 writers, 12 actors, 12 acts of defiance. While each short play can be viewed for free, we strongly encourage you to use the donation option – 70 per cent of income generated support the artists involved in this festival.

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